Work-related stress – are employers doing enough?

A recent poll has revealed that 63% of professionals have suffered from some form of workplace-related stress. Picture: Freepik

A recent poll has revealed that 63% of professionals have suffered from some form of workplace-related stress. Picture: Freepik

Published Oct 19, 2023


Despite South African employers spending millions on wellness initiatives every year and increasing their spend by 20% since the pandemic, 55% of professionals still believe that their employer is not doing enough to combat stress in the workplace.

Professionals at risk

According to a recent poll of 2 000 people conducted by recruitment firm Robert Walters, 63% of professionals said they had suffered from some form of workplace-related stress. This was defined as stress symptoms experienced more than three times for seven or more consecutive days. When asked how often they felt this way, 41% replied “very often”, with a further 22% saying “somewhat often”, and 28% identified it as happening “sometimes”. Only 9% said they had not experienced any form of recurring stress in the workplace this year.

The triggers

When asked about what caused workplace stress, 35% answered that “concerns over the workload and the type of work” were the most common triggers. These were followed by heightened pressure from management (24%), company culture and job culture (23%), and colleague competitiveness (18%).


When asked whose responsibility it was to manage workplace stress, 42% of the professionals surveyed said it was down to HR and senior leaders, followed by line managers (32%), with only a fraction (21%) believing that it was down to the individual. However, 31% of professionals felt that although “some” efforts have been made, these are lacking; and a staggering 56% of those surveyed said employers weren’t doing enough.

“Despite companies spending more on employee wellness initiatives and benefits every year, our survey indicates they may only be applying a Band-Aid,” says Samantha-Jane Gravett, director of Robert Walters Africa.

She adds that rather than breaking the bank or piling pressure on managers to solve workplace stress, employers should rather be more proactive and listen to the needs of their employees. “For example, conducting internal and anonymous surveys with employees will ascertain greater insights into where a business may need to focus, as this is not as simple as a one size fits all.”

Causes and effects

Long working hours, heavy workloads, tight deadlines, unclear job expectations, job insecurity, and conflicts with colleagues or supervisors are all factors that contribute towards workplace stress.

If not addressed, workplace stress can snowball into higher turnover rates, levels of employee burnout and absenteeism, with lower productivity levels. Almost a quarter of professionals (21%) stated that their work was of low quality, and they focussed on high output instead because of unrealistic workloads.

“Workplace stress is something everyone in a business has a hand in creating – however, it is down to senior leaders and HR to set the tone for how it is managed to avoid employee burnout.

“Simple interventions such as making sure workloads are manageable, setting realistic deadlines, and making sure employees have access to support, safe spaces and relevant resources such as mental health programmes can all help to alleviate pressure in the workplace.”